Romeo and Juliet Prologue Activities

Instructor: Jason Lineberger

Jason has 20 years of education experience including 14 years of teaching college literature.

The prologue to 'Romeo and Juliet' may only be 14 lines, but students need to feel confident in their understanding of it before they tackle the rest of the play. This lesson contains activities that will help students gain that confidence.

Approaches to the Prologue

This lesson has five approaches to teaching the Prologue to Romeo and Juliet, which include ones that would take a single class period to some that would require several. The activities range from low to high tech and are designed to meet a variety of learning styles, so you can choose ones that will best meet the needs of your students.

Sonnet Analysis

For an honors-level class or for groups with some academically-inclined students, one approach would be to recognize that the prologue is written as a Shakespearean sonnet. There is a teachable technique for sonnet analysis, and once students learn that, they can apply the same technique to the prologue. The list below quickly goes through the steps in this activity.

  • Give the class copies of Sonnet 18 (Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer's Day).
  • Explain that Shakespearean sonnets have 14 lines of ten syllables each and that they have the ABABCDCDEFEFGG rhyme scheme. Teach a mini-lesson on marking rhyme scheme if students are unfamiliar with this concept.
  • Show that the poem is broken into four sections - three quatrains followed by a couplet. The Shakespearean sonnet presents three parts of a problem, then solves that problem in the last two lines.
  • Model for the class how knowing this can help break Sonnet 18 into some smaller, more manageable chunks.
  • Have small groups use this same approach to interpret the prologue, by looking at the three parts of the problem and the proposed solution offered in the final couplet.


While students won't be able to paraphrase the entire play, it's useful to paraphrase the prologue since it summarizes the play's plot. To keep your class from feeling overwhelmed, present the 14 lines of the prologue one at a time and use student pairs to write the paraphrase so they can talk out their ideas. If students need even more scaffolding, you can paraphrase certain words in the lines and have your class fill in the rest, or give them access to dictionaries. If time is an issue, break up the prologue and give small groups single lines or pairs of lines, then add those together to form the paraphrased version.

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